Opinion piece by Khan on a new paper:

The paper:

"Source populations for an admixed population can possess distinct patterns of genotype and phenotype at the beginning of the admixture process. Such differences are sometimes taken to serve as markers of ancestry---that is, phenotypes that are initially associated with the ancestral background in one source population are taken to reflect ancestry in that population. Examples exist, however, in which genotypes or phenotypes initially associated with ancestry in one source population have decoupled from overall admixture levels, so that they no longer serve as proxies for genetic ancestry. We develop a mechanistic model for describing the joint dynamics of admixture levels and phenotype distributions in an admixed population. The approach includes a quantitative-genetic model that relates a phenotype to underlying loci that affect its trait value. We consider three forms of mating. First, individuals might assort in a manner that is independent of the overall genetic admixture level. Second, individuals might assort by a quantitative phenotype that is initially correlated with the genetic admixture level. Third, individuals might assort by the genetic admixture level itself. Under the model, we explore the relationship between genetic admixture level and phenotype over time, studying the effect on this relationship of the genetic architecture of the phenotype. We find that the decoupling of genetic ancestry and phenotype can occur surprisingly quickly, especially if the phenotype is driven by a small number of loci. We also find that positive assortative mating attenuates the process of dissociation in relation to a scenario in which mating is random with respect to genetic admixture and with respect to phenotype. The mechanistic framework suggests that in an admixed population, a trait that initially differed between source populations might be a reliable proxy for ancestry for only a short time, especially if the trait is determined by relatively few loci. The results are potentially relevant in admixed human populations, in which phenotypes that have a perceived correlation with ancestry might have social significance as ancestry markers, despite declining correlations with ancestry over time."

I've sort of had a gut feeling about this for a long time. My brother is more "southern" than I am genetically, but looks more "Central European". You can have siblings, as in the case of my husband and his sister, who are basically the same in terms of "components", yet he is very "Med" looking and she is blonde, blue eyed and fair skinned.

For these to happen, the phenotypic traits would have had to have "decoupled" from the original ancestry.

People haven't wanted to believe it, however, perhaps partly because that would call into question the use of such "appearance" traits to determine ancestry or proportions of ancestry, let us say.

Of course, the more isolated a population the more such a correlation might exist, which is why physical anthropology might "work" in Finland, but not in Italy.